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DVD Shopping Bag: After Earth

A Likable Hero?

By Robert T. Trate     October 29, 2013
Source: Mania.com


After Earth out now on Blu-ray
© Sony Home Entertainment
By this point, I was more curious to see if M. Night Shyamalan would fail again at the box office than be entertained by one of his stories. I skipped The Happening all together and sadly journeyed into Avatar: The Last Air Bender against my better judgement. When I heard that M. Night was teaming up with Will Smith for a Science Fiction picture, my attention piqued. Yet, upon hearing the casting of Smith’s son Jaden, I got back on the apprehensive side. The advantage of writing a DVD column is that after I hear the reviews from both critics and friends, I can say that I’ll wait for it on Blu-ray. Well, that day has now come. 

After Earth is a father and son survival story that happens to take place on Earth. However, this is not the Earth we all know. It is a millennium after man’s exodus and the planet has evolved. Mankind has settled in the stars and discovered they are not alone. Creatures known as the URSA are at war with mankind. The story of Kitai (Jaden Smith) and Cypher (Will Smith) Raige takes place during a father/son getaway. Their transport crash lands on the quarantined Earth and Kitai must save both himself and his father. 

The story has that great Sci-Fi setting. We are treated to a dazzling world when man has embraced a more organic style of living. Everything from their spaceships to their simple storage compartments have a different feel to them. Fans of Farscape will appreciate the style choice by M. Night Shyamalan and Production Designer Thomas E. Sanders. It really is like nothing that has been on the big screen before. The special effects are fine, but they are obviously special effects.  The real world locations of Utah, Arizona, and Costa Rica dazzle, but as soon as giant CGI creatures walk into the shot, the film loses something. As a viewer, I shouldn’t think that the creatures in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones looked better, especially because that was over ten years ago. 

With all that being said, why I am talking about production design and special effects? What is it about After Earth that reeks to high heaven? It is not the acting, or the story, or the fact that a real life father and son are playing a father an son. Will Smith is a very likable guy. If there was ever a pure, fun loving entertainer, it would be Will Smith. Whether you prefer him on the Fresh Price of Bel Air, rapping with DJ Jazzy Jeff, or taking on a variety of aliens, Will Smith is fun to watch. In After Earth, the elder Smith is not the lead actor. Jaden Smith carries the story. It is through his eyes that we are asked to choose to participate in the story. I’m sorry, but in what way has Jaden Smith ever entertained anyone?

Jaden Smith has a small list of credits to his name. In both The Pursuit of Happyness and remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, he was just a little child playing that part. In The Karate Kid, he played an arrogant pre-teen, who was at times a little more Johnny Lawrence than Daniel Larusso. It didn’t help either that he made a hip-hop version of a beloved classic. As we arrive at After Earth, his career looms in that huge shadow of his father. Here, he had the chance to prove himself. The role of Kitai is basically a one man show. This Sci-Fi version of Castaway could have really opened up Jaden Smith to a broader audience. Instead, I found myself just hoping that Jaden was going to save his dad because that was who I really cared about. With each wrong choice Kitai made, I found myself hating the actor more than the character, a thing I should never do for the hero of any tale. 

This wasn’t a bomb of a movie in any sense of the word. In fact, the story was pretty good. However, the Sci-Fi part of the story was not necessary. It showed off an interesting take on the future of mankind, but it could have easily transpired during a hiking trip in Canada. The fault doesn’t lay with M. Night and the typical storytelling twists we once admired and now expect. In fact, there are no twists. The whole movie hinged on the audience accepting Jaden Smith as Kitai, a young man with everything to prove. He failed on both accounts. 
 
 

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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 11
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wrrlykam 10/29/2013 2:17:53 AM

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise on BD! It hasbeen years since I saw it, now if only it crosses the Pond then more classic anime for my collection.

samson 10/29/2013 3:21:37 AM

 Before After Earth Jaden had three hit movies under his belt. One of them he stared in and did a great job. BTW, I don't think his Karate Kid remake was anywhere close to being Hip-hop. If the character were some blond kid from Kansas who liked Country music would you consider the movie to be a Country version of a classic or would that aspect of the character be chalked up to being a facet of the leads personality? Maybe, we saw two different films.

But, I digress. There was no reason for this movie to bomb like it did other than the public's faulty perception that Jaden didn't deserve to star in AE, Didn't matter that he'd been in three other successful films. People had made up their minds about Jaden and that was that. 

Was the movie great? No. But, it was no worse and a hell of a lot better than any other big budget summer sci-fi/action flick.

hanso 10/29/2013 4:07:32 AM

 It bombed because it was balls and both Smiths played unlikeable characters, specially Will.  The movie made money worldwide though.

Yo I just bought The Sandlot on Blu, very excited as i did t know that was out.  Now I need The Mighty Ducks too.

goldeneyez 10/29/2013 5:16:55 AM

After Earth was decent.  Jaden was decent.  It wasn't Happening bad.  I didn't find myself laughing at the obsurdity of the movie's premise.

goldeneyez 10/29/2013 5:18:02 AM

Note... I didn't find myself laughing at the obsudity of the movie's premise while watching the movie, e.g. the trees are trying to kill us.

doublec 10/29/2013 10:40:31 AM

 I agree with Robert on this one. The fillm doesn't suck, it looks great and is very well made, I really think it may well be Shyamalan's best film since Signs. But the problem is that at no point do you forget, or are you allowed to forget, that the actual point of this movie is WILL SMITH PRESENTS  !!!JADEN SMITH!!! in After Earth (directed bySSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHH). The kid tries very hard, I give him credit for that, but you know there are probably five or six other actors out there who coulda done better but DIDN'T have one the most popular actors in America as a father. I know that happens, but it's rarely more obvious than it is here.
And this has absolutely NOTHING  to do with the Smith's being  African-American, I have seen that charge made on this board and others. I submit it's the people making that charge who have the race issue, as THEY are the one's saying that anyone criticising this casting has to be a racist simply because of the Smith's color.  I had this charge levelled against me here when this was first reviewed and I'm seeing attempts to make that claim in general here. I find THAT offensive. I'm discussing the movie on it's merits, NOT who's what color. 
 

Shellhead88 10/29/2013 1:02:50 PM

I agree that this movie dosen't  deserve all the bad publicity that it gets. I also agree that it isn't a great movie but not as bad as last air bender or battlefield earth. I don't mind Will Smith tring to help out his son. If it wasn't for my Dad getting me in the shop that he worked at I might not of got in. (No he wasn't a boss.) I've been their for twenty years know,(God i'm getting old), and had a chance to work with my Dad until he passed away. So now I look back and, I am very happy that I got a chance to do that. So we all try to help out our kids if we can. So I won't get on Will Smith for doing the samething that most of us would do.

Wildstar 10/29/2013 1:33:46 PM

I haven't seen the movie, and will never see the movie, because the father and son team annoys the hell out of me. If Tom Cruise made a movie with his arrogant son, I wouldn't watch it either...so it's not a "black" thing. And if you don't think Jaden is arrogant, type his name into google and click on images. If that's not arrogant, I don't know what is. From the trailers it looks like the animal species on Earth have evolved, a little too much in my opinion (and every friggin person on the planet who's had a bio class). A 1000 years is barely a blink of an eye in geological terms. Have animals species evolved since Jesus died? Nope. And that's 2000 years

Tevii 10/29/2013 2:16:11 PM

Love Will Smith, but the movie is not that great. R.I.P.D. wouldve made a better spotlight movie for the article then After Earth.

 

samson 10/29/2013 7:44:36 PM

 I never thought people had a problem with the film because of the African American thing. I think folks are just very sensitive to the whole nepotism thing. But, I don't see Jaden being any worse an actor than his dad (who in my opinion is rarely above passable.

Had Jaden been very inexperienced, I'd have a problem, too. But, as I stated, he's had three hit films under his belt. One with his pops. Why not do another one with dad? Sometimes, the general public just has too much disdain for the haves just because they aren't the have nots.

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